Stemilt Growers' Organic Program Turns 30
WENATCHEE, WA - As the year comes to a close, and the world outside becomes cold and slushy, Stemilt apples are still gracing the shelves of retailers nationwide and are as fresh and crunchy as ever.
In 2019, the company will celebrate its 30th year of organically farming apples. I struck up a conversation with Stemilt’s Communications Manager Brianna Shales to find out how the company has maintained its position as a leader in organics, hear the latest developments in its apple program, and get the scoop on newly developed apple advertising opportunities for retailers.
2018 has seen more shoppers than ever traversing the produce department and eyeing organic displays.
“According to the latest statistics," Brianna confided, “as many as 82% of households buy organic regularly. Our organic program started in 1989 and has evolved and grown over the years, but always remained a constant in our company. It is deeply embedded into what we do.”
Stemilt’s organic apple program started out in a big way in 1989, and has continued to grow over the years as the demand for organics has increased. Organic programs take longer to develop as orchards must undergo a three-year transition from conventional growing in order to become certified to grow organics. Today, more than 30% of all of the company’s apples are grown and certified organic as the company orchards are completing these transition.
In addition to the emphasis continually placed on development, Stemilt has also introduced more consumer-focused apple varieties to its organic program. After looking at conventional apple sales, Brianna concludes, “Why not promote high flavor to a shopper who purchases organic? They are looking for the same thing.”
This recent introduction of high-flavor apples like Fuji, Honeycrisp, Gala, and Piñata® has contributed to the continued success of the company’s organic apple program. Brianna described the mission of the program as “...to not only grow organically, but grow really high-flavor fruit.” Additionally, due to advancements in organic storage regimens, these main four high-flavor apples are available nearly year round.
Also new for Stemilt is a defined focus on marketing to organic consumers. Due to the success of its Artisan Organics™ program, the company now has enough product to develop suggestions for retail marketing of its apples.
Brianna explains, “There are two types of retailers on the organic side: ones that do a smaller display, and others that are going all-out with displays on organics—those people are really getting more value out of their apple category. We want to see more retailers dedicate display space to organics and promote them.”
To help spur more retail promotion, Stemilt introduced its new E-Z Pallet display, which is a sleeve for a half pallet that turns the sometimes drab apple transporter into an instant retail-ready display. It holds 30 Euro cartons of fruit and allows retailers to mix varieties to entice consumers and improve their organic apple selection. The sleeve can also sail smoothly through distribution centers and be placed in store aisles without any additional preparation by retailers.
AndNowUKnow looks forward to celebrating many more anniversaries with Stemilt, and is eager to see where the next decade will take its organic programs.